Communities of Weavers: A Methodology for Analyzing Textile and Cloth Production

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Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports



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Variation in textile production processes from archaeological contexts can distinguish communities of weavers and signal distinct group identities. In this paper, we present an analysis of 141 textiles recovered from a single grave located in the mid-Chincha Valley, Peru that dates from the Late Horizon (1400–1532 CE) to the Colonial Period (1532–1825 CE). This sample represents one of the largest and best-preserved textile assemblages from a clearly defined and radiocarbon-dated archaeological context in the Chincha Valley. For this study, we document techniques used in two distinct phases of textile production: yarn production (spinning and plying) and weaving. We 1) develop a manual hierarchical classification method for identifying groups of textiles featuring consistent associations among techniques used for each production phase and 2) assess how these groups vary in terms of thread count, size, garment type, and design. Our results reveal six groupings of textile production techniques that account for 71% of the assemblage by count. We compare these results to that of an independent cluster analysis that examines the joint co-occurrence of yarn production and weaving techniques and find that they are largely in accordance with each other. We suggest that these multiple textile groups corresponded to distinct communities or households of weavers associated with this grave. Our study provides a methodology for analyzing the variation and consistency of textile production to learn about communities of weavers within and outside the Andes.


Archaeological Anthropology



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